Revisions to the walking-working surface standard were first proposed in 1990. They were revised in 2003 and re-proposed in 2010. The final rule is applicable to all general industry employers and covers a variety of walking-working surfaces including:
- Elevated work surfaces
Incorporating best practices from more than 30 industry consensus standards, the rule is performance based, giving employers greater flexibility to correct walking-working surface hazards in a manner that best suits their workplace and working conditions. General industry workplaces now also have specific fall from height rules that closely mirror the fall from heights regulations that have been preventing construction injuries and deaths for decades.
Walking-Working Surfaces Defined
All general industry workplaces and walking-working surfaces are covered under the rule, unless they have been specifically excluded. OSHA defines a walking-working surface as:
“Any horizontal or vertical surface on or through which an employee walks, works or gains access to a work area or workplace location.”
In this definition, OSHA clarifies that it is not just floors where workers perform a work duty. Building entrances, hallways, aisles, breakrooms, locker rooms, cafeterias and other areas in and outside the facility are also included.
Slips and falls to the same level can occur anywhere. This increased definition of what constitutes a walking-working surface should prompt employers to be more aware of the need to take a facility-wide approach to fall prevention and not isolate efforts solely to production or other areas of their facility.
General Requirements [29 CFR 1910.22]
Since the first walking-working surface rule was published in the early 1970s, employers have been required to maintain their workplace in a clean, orderly and sanitary condition. Specifically, workroom floors have always been required to be kept clean and dry. In areas that can’t be kept dry, OSHA required mats, platforms or elevated work surfaces.
The revised rule maintains these requirements and qualifies that hazards such as “sharp or protruding objects, loose boards, corrosion, leaks, spills, snow and ice” must also be prevented.
To help ensure that walking-working surfaces remain free of recognized hazards, employers are now required to inspect all areas regularly. When hazards are discovered, they must be corrected immediately. If they cannot be corrected immediately, they must be guarded to prevent anyone from walking on them until the hazard can be eliminated.
Throughout the rule, emphasis is placed on ensuring that all walking-working surfaces (including floors, ladders and dockboards) are capable of supporting their maximum intended loads. Any repairs that affect the structural integrity of a walking-working surface must be made or supervised by a qualified person.